|Publication number||US7127957 B2|
|Application number||US 11/053,277|
|Publication date||Oct 31, 2006|
|Filing date||Feb 8, 2005|
|Priority date||Jul 21, 1997|
|Also published as||US6886421, US20020166394, US20050145020|
|Publication number||053277, 11053277, US 7127957 B2, US 7127957B2, US-B2-7127957, US7127957 B2, US7127957B2|
|Inventors||Vijay Mathur, Tyler Cote, Ronald Jones, Jane Sun, Steve Rettew, Chen Yi, Tony Mao, Will Whelan, Ken Galano, Richard Dussault|
|Original Assignee||Vijay Mathur, Tyler Cote, Ronald Jones, Jane Sun, Steve Rettew, Chen Yi, Tony Mao, Will Whelan, Ken Galano, Richard Dussault|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (15), Referenced by (11), Classifications (10), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present application is a divisional of U.S. Pat. application Ser. No. 10/045,464 filed Nov. 8, 2001 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,886,421 which in turn is a Continuation in Part Application of patent application Ser. No. 09/663,719, filed Sep. 15, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,418,800 which is a Divisional Patent Application of patent application Ser. No. 09/350,054, filed Jul. 8, 1999 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,178,832, which in turn is a Divisional Patent Application of patent application Ser. No. 09/118,683, filed Jun. 30, 1998 now U.S. Pat. No. 5,983,734, which in turn claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/053,265, filed Jul. 21, 1997, all by the same inventors as the present Application and directed to the same invention and containing the same disclosure as the present Application. The present Patent Application claims benefit of prior patent application Ser. No. 09/118,683 and of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/053,265, which are incorporated herein by reference. The present Patent Application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/118,683, filed Jun. 30, 1998 by Vijay Mathur for A MODULAR AUTOMATED DIAGNOSTIC ANALYSIS APPARATUS WITH A SELF CLEANING SAMPLE INPUT PORT, AN IMPROVED FLUID SELECTION PORT, AND AN IMPROVED REAGENT PACK, since allowed as U.S. Pat. No. 5,983,734; to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/350,248 filed Jul. 8, 1999 by Vijay Mathur et al. for A FLUID SELECTION VALVE FOR A MODULAR AUTOMATED DIAGNOSTIC APPARATUS, allowed and since abandoned; to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/350,247 filed Jul. 8, 1999 by Vijay Mathur et al. for a FLUID SELECTION VALVE FOR A MODULAR AUTOMATED DIAGNOSTIC APPARATUS, since allowed as U.S. Pat. No. 6,293,162; to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/350,055 filed Jul. 8, 1999 by Vijay Mathur et al. for A MODULAR SENSOR SYSTEM FOR A MODULAR AUTOMATED DIAGNOSTIC APPARATUS, since allowed as U.S. Pat. No. 6,289,751; and to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/350,054 filed Jul. 8, 1999 by Vijay Mathur et al. for A REAGENT POUCH FOR USE IN A MODULAR AUTOMATED DIAGNOSTIC APPARATUS, since allowed as U.S. Pat. No. 6,178,832.
The present invention is related to an automated diagnostic analyzer and, in particular, to an automated diagnostic analyzer capable of accepting biological samples from a variety of sample containers and providing automatic cleaning of the exterior and interior surfaces of the analyzer such that there is no contamination of the analyzer and with an improved internal fluidic system, an improved valve for introducing calibrants and air into the fluidic system, a self contained reagent pack capable of storing and handling tonometered calibrants for blood gas determination, and modular film sensors with a record memory for storing use life information.
An important and frequently required diagnostic analysis, such as may be performed in clinical or laboratory medical practice, is the automated chemical analysis of biological samples, and in particular biological samples containing whole cells or cellular debris, such as whole blood, plasma or serum, or other biological fluids wherein the term fluid includes both liquids and gases. The analysis of biological samples containing cells or cellular debris saves valuable time in reaching a diagnosis and treatment by eliminating the separation step, which can be critical in an emergency situation, and reduces the cost of each analysis.
A major problem in the automated chemical analysis of samples containing whole cells or cellular debris, however, is the delivery of the samples from a sample container, such as a hypodermic tube, test tube or other sample container, and into the analysis apparatus. Biological samples, and in particular those containing cellular materials, have a tendency to leave films containing proteins and other biological molecules on the surfaces of the analysis apparatus. As a result, each of successive samples introduced into the analysis apparatus can simultaneously pick up constituents left on the surfaces from previous samples and deposit new constituents, so that a sample can be contaminated by one or more previous samples. This problem is particularly acute given the sizes of the samples customarily used in such analyzers, which are typically in the range of micro-liters.
These residual films tend to accumulate over time, so that the problem increases as the number of samples increases, and the interaction between a given sample and the residual films from previous samples in unpredictable, depending upon the constituents of the samples and the composition of the residual films.
Methods for dealing with this problem as regards the interior surfaces of an analysis apparatus have long been available and generally involve regular washing or flushing of the interior passages and chambers of the apparatus through which the biological samples pass. A typical analysis apparatus will normally use the pumps, tubing and passages used to move the samples through the device to also move the cleaning solutions through the device, thereby insuring that all internal surfaces, passages and chambers that come in contact with the samples also come in contact with the cleaning solutions. These cleaning solutions range from mild to aggressive, usually containing strong alkaline constituents, such as bleach, or enzymatically active constituents, such as proteases. For this reason, many automated analysis devices are provided with containers, either located within the apparatus or outside the apparatus itself, for storing cleaning solutions and the waste products resulting from cleaning operations.
These cleaning methods are confined to the interior surfaces of the analysis apparatus, that is, the surfaces of the passages and chambers through which the samples and reagents flow in passing from the sample entry point to the analysis sensors and the surfaces of the analysis sensors that are contacted by the samples. It will be noted, however, that the methods of the prior art for cleaning even the interior surfaces of an analysis apparatus are often inadequate to prevent interaction between a sample and the residue or residual films from previous samples and there is frequently contamination between samples and calibration reagents. In particular, the interior fluid paths of the analysis apparatus of the prior art frequently include “dead” spaces or voids that trap portions of the samples and fluids flowing therethrough and such “dead” spaces and voids are difficult to flush out or clean, so that the residues or films trapped in such areas may in turn contaminate subsequent samples. Such voids and “dead” spaces frequently occur, for example, in the corners of sharp bends in the fluid paths, in the corners formed where the fluid path changes dimensions and at sliding joints between sections of the fluid path. In addition, it is common in analysis apparatus of the prior art that the fluids pass through various moving parts in the path to the analysis sensors and such moving parts, such as sliding joints, valves and pumps, frequently contain voids and “dead” spaces that trap residues or residual films that may contaminate other fluids subsequently flowing through the apparatus.
Further, it is apparent that the samples also contact the exterior surfaces of the apparatus, in particular at or around the sample entry point where the samples first enter an analysis device, such as at the input to an aspirating probe through which the samples are drawn into the apparatus. Because these surfaces are not interior to the device, and are therefore not part of the cleaning solution path within the device, the films can build up on these surfaces in a relatively unhindered manner.
The buildup of films and deposits on the exterior surfaces of an analysis apparatus, for example, at the sample entry point such as an aspiration probe, have been usually handled in the prior art by having the user manually wipe the contaminated surfaces. This method, however, is unsatisfactory for many reasons. For example, not only does the manual cleaning of the apparatus impose an additional task on an already too busy user, but the user may forget to clean the sample entry as often as necessary, or at all, with resulting contamination of the samples. In addition, the user is undesirably exposed to biological hazards when manually cleaning the apparatus, such as puncture wounds from a contaminated aspiration probe and the sample residues themselves. The user must also safely dispose of the contaminated cleaning supplies, further adding to the cost and inconvenience of analyzing biological samples.
Another problem in the automated biological analysis apparatus of the prior art arises from the need to calibrate the analysis apparatus in order to validate the results of the sample analyses. In this regard, the cost of providing separate means for delivering the calibration samples, or calibrantes, and the samples to be analyzed into the apparatus can be unacceptable and, if the calibrante and analysis sample delivery paths are not substantially the same, the differences in the paths can introduce systematic errors in the analysis process as regards the calibrantes or the samples being analyzed, or both.
For these reasons, the means by which calibrantes are introduced to the analysis mechanism and sensors is generally the same as that used to introduce the samples to be analyzed and the calibrantes generally follow the same flow path as the samples. This, however, can result in cross-contamination between the calibrantes and the samples and this cross-contamination can be more critical than cross-contamination between samples. This problem is compounded where multiple calibrantes are necessary, as the means by which the calibrantes are introduced to the apparatus must include the capability of switching among the calibrantes without cross-contamination among the calibrantes or between the calibrantes and the samples to be analyzed. The problem is further compounded in that many current analyzers provide completely automatic calibration, so that the means by which the calibrantes are introduced are more complex while, at the same time, being less accessible for cleaning.
Still another problem in the automated biological analysis apparatus of the prior art arises because the biological samples to be analyzed may be provided in a variety of sample containers, such as Vacutainer tubes, syringes, capillary tubes of various sizes, and a variety of types and sizes of sample cups and beakers. While the sample entry point of the analysis apparatus should be capable of accepting samples directly from any of these containers, thereby providing users with the maximum flexibility as regards the acquisition and storage of samples, each different type of sample container places a different geometric constraint on the entry point and on the operations by which the samples are introduced into the analysis apparatus. This, in turn, has previously significantly increased the cost and complexity of the analysis apparatus and made the apparatus more complex for the user and, at times, very awkward for the user.
Yet another problem of the analysis apparatus of the prior art is in the valves used to select and route calibration and cleaning fluids, and perhaps sample fluids, into and through the analysis. In addition to the problems of the prior art discussed above, the design of such valves has generally conformed to traditional principles, using traditional materials such as metal or plastic for the body and moving parts of the valve and using traditional methods such as plastic or rubber seals, such as O-rings and washers, to prevent leakage from or into the valve passages. Such valves tend to be expensive to manufacture, require significant and frequent maintenance, and generally become unusable due to wear in a relative short time. In addition, and as discussed above, the traditional designs of such valves frequently include small voids or “dead areas”, as described above, which trap films or residues of the calibration and cleaning fluids and samples flowing therethrough, so a one fluid or sample may frequently contaminate a subsequent fluid or sample.
Still another problem of the analysis devices of the prior art concerns the difficulty and complexity of the operations and actions required of a user of the apparatus, which may be regarded as “ease of use” issues. One group of such issued relates directly to the analysis of individual samples and concern the convenience with which a user may use the apparatus to analyze a sample. For example, and as discussed above, the user should be able to present samples to the apparatus from a variety of types of sample containers without the need for special adaptations or operations to switch from one type of container to another. In another aspect of this same issue, it has been described that the analysis devices of the prior art generally require a user to frequently manually clean the means by which samples and calibrantes are introduced into the device, which is an inconvenient and potentially hazardous operation that would preferably be eliminated.
In yet another aspect of ease of use of an analysis apparatus or device concerns what may be referred to as the “logistic” aspects of the apparatus, that is, its portability, the ease or difficulty of supplying the apparatus with reagents and cleaning or calibration fluids, and the ease or difficulty of adapting the apparatus to perform different tests or multiple tests at the same time or to adding new analysis sensors. It is preferable that the apparatus be modular to the greatest possible extent.
To illustrate, such analysis apparatus is generally provided with replaceable reservoirs, containing calibrants, reagents and cleaning fluid and the replaceable reservoirs are sometimes combined into a unit known as a reagent or fluids pack. For the case of blood gas analyzers, however, external tanks of calibrated gases are usually required in addition to the replaceable reagent pack. The elimination of external calibration gas tanks and the incorporation of the calibration gases into the calibrant solutions within a modular, replaceable and self-contained reagent pack containing all reagents and calibrating solutions used in the analyses and calibrations, including the calibrants for gas sensors, is thereby advantageous. Not only would such a reagent pack be more convenient in that a reagent pack may simply be replaced as necessary, but the apparatus could be more portable.
This, however, presents certain problems in the design and construction of such reservoirs, or fluid packs, which are rarely or poorly met by the fluid packs of the prior art. Packs used to store, for example, calibration fluids used in association with the measurement of blood gases contain carefully calculated concentrations of gases. These containers must therefore prevent the escape or absorption of gases for extended periods, including an unknown shelf storage time and travel time. This requirement is even more stringent when the packs are required to be shipped under conditions, such as air freight, where the external atmospheric pressure may vary widely, as may the temperature. Another and related effect to be guarded against is the formation of gas bubbles in the containers since the escape of gases from solution will affect the calibrated concentration of gases in the fluid, even though the gases do not escape the container. Still another problem of the prior art arises from the methods used in the prior art to prevent the escape or absorption of gases from or into a fluid by providing a gas tight metal foil liner, such as aluminum foil. While such metal liners are of value in preventing or reducing the escape or absorption of gases from or into a fluid, the metal foil itself may chemically react with the fluid, thereby destroying or undesirably altering the characteristics of the fluid stored therein.
The present invention provides a solution to these and other problems of the prior art.
The present invention is directed to a modular automated diagnostic analyzer having an analysis mechanism chassis for mounting a sensor module containing sensors, a fluid entry module for sample aspiration, a valve module for selecting fluids, a reagent pack for storage of calibrants, and a pump module for fluidic movement. The analyzer includes an improved fluidic system wherein a biological sample does not come into contact with the valve system through which calibrants and air are introduced to the fluid path, a value system utilizing an improved design and materials, a self-contained reagent pack containing calibrants, cleaning solution and a waste container wherein the reagent pack, valve and fluid path are capable of storing and handling tonometered calibrants for blood gas determination, eliminating the need for external tanks of calibrant gases.
The fluid entry module includes an aspiration tube having a first section located within the analysis mechanism chassis for conducting fluids to the sensor chamber and a fluid entry module enclosing a second section of the aspiration tube rotatably mounted and rotatably connected to the first section of the aspiration tube by a fluid and gas tight seal and having a fluid entry port for the entry of fluids to the sensor chamber. The fluid entry module encloses the aspiration tube to rotate with and to slide along the aspiration tube and includes a wiping seal mounted in the fluid entry module and slidably enclosing the aspiration tube in a region extending from the fluid entry port to move along the aspiration tube, wherein the fluid entry module is rotatably and slidably engaged with the analysis mechanism chassis to move to a plurality of positions whereby a first position locates the aspiration tube entry port adjacent to a nipple for the introduction of calibration and cleaning fluids into the analysis apparatus. Others of the plurality of positions present the aspiration tube entry port for the aspiration of fluids into the analysis apparatus from a plurality of different types of sample containers and the motion of the wiping seal with respect to the aspiration tube entry port removes a residue of the aspirated fluids from the exterior surfaces of the aspiration tube when the fluid entry module is returned to the first position, the removed residue being aspirated into the analysis apparatus for disposal.
The apparatus also includes at least one sensor module mounted in the sensor chamber wherein each sensor module includes a sensor module body structured to mechanically stack and interlock vertically in the sensor chamber with other sensor module bodies. Each sensor module includes a fluid passage and a sensor element contained in the fluid passage wherein the fluid passage passes vertically through the sensor module body and is provided with a fluid tight seal at least one end of the fluid passage to form a fluid tight seal with the fluid passage of another sensor module body or with a fluid passage into or out of the sensor chamber. Each sensor module also includes electrical circuitry at least connecting the sensor element with a sensor body connector engaging with a socket mounted in the sensor chamber and providing electrical connections to electronics of the diagnostic analyzer. According to the present invention, therefore, the analysis tests performed on samples by the analysis apparatus can be selected by the selection and insertion of corresponding sensor modules into the sensor chamber. The invention further includes modular film sensors with record memories for storing and tracking use life information.
The analysis mechanism also includes a fluid selection valve for selecting fluids from a selected one of a plurality of fluid sources for introduction to the entry port. The fluid selection valve includes a valve cylinder having a cylindrical extension extending from and coaxial with the axis of the valve cylinder to engage in a liquid and gas tight seal with the nipple for engaging with the entry port, and the valve cylinder and the cylindrical extension have a valve cylinder passage extending from the end of the cylindrical extension and along the axis of the cylinder to within the cylinder and therefrom to the rim of the cylinder. The fluid selection valve also includes a value body having a valve well enclosing the valve cylinder such that the valve cylinder can rotate in the well and a plurality of valve body passages extending from the inner wall of the valve, the valve body passages intersecting the inner wall of the valve well to align with the valve cylinder passage as the valve cylinder rotates, thereby allowing the valve cylinder passage to be selectively connected to a selected one of the valve body passages and a corresponding one of a plurality of fluid sources.
The apparatus also includes connections to the reagent pack's plurality of fluid sources. The reagent pack of the present invention includes one or more reagent pouchs, each pouch having a port body with a port opening therethrough for the extraction of fluid from the containers within the reagent pouch, the port opening including an external septum providing an external shield protecting from an accidental opening of the port opening and an internal seal to be penetrated by a tube leading to the selection valve to permit the fluid stored therein to be selectively extracted from the reagent pouch, the external septum providing a generally gas and liquid tight seal about the tube.
Each fluid container, or pouch, in the reagent pack, in turn, includes at least two walls sealed together along the edges of the sides to form a liquid container, wherein each wall includes multiple layers of materials wherein at least one layer is a thin, flexible glass material, and a port body with a port opening therethrough from the extraction of fluid from the reagent pouch. In a presently preferred embodiment, each wall is comprised of an inner layer of polyethylene, a middle layer of a glass material, and an outer layer of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and the glass material is selected from the group of glass materials including a layer of thin, flexible glass, a material coated with silicone oxide, or KEVLAR. The port opening includes an internal septum to be penetrated by a fluid source tube leading to the fluid selection valve to permit the fluid stored therein to be selectively extracted from the reagent pouch.
In addition, the walls of one end of the reagent pouch are extended to form a filler neck wherein during filling of the reagent pouch with a fluid the pouch is filled up to a filler line of the filler neck and is sealed by heat and pressure applied along a sealing line below the filler line so that no bubbles are trapped in the reagent pouch.
The reagent pack of the present invention may also include a data chip positioned on the reagent pack to be read by a data chip reader mounted in the analysis apparatus wherein the data chip stores data to be read by the analysis apparatus for use in using the fluids stored in the reagent pouch.
The fluid entry module engages with the analysis mechanism chassis to control the relative motions and positions of the fluid entry module, the aspiration tube and the wiping seal. As such, the fluid entry module is placed in a first, or closed, position so that the aspiration tube is positioned in the first position and the wiping seal is located in a first position adjacent the fluid entry port. The fluid entry module can then be moved to a second position for the introduction of a fluid into the sample entry port from a test tube or similar container, whereby the aspiration tube is rotated to the second position and the wiping seal is moved along the aspiration tube and away from the fluid entry port, whereupon fluid is introduced into the entry port. The fluid entry module may then be returned to the first position, whereby the aspiration tube is rotated to the first position and the wiping seal is moved along the second section of the aspiration tube to the first position adjacent the wiping seal adjacent the entry port, so that the motion of the wiping seal removes a residue of the introduced fluid from the exterior surface of the aspiration tube when the fluid entry module is returned to the first position.
Further according to the present invention, the analyzer further includes a pump for aspirating fluids through the aspiration tube and sensor chamber and a switch for sensing the position of the fluid entry module and activating the pump when, or just before, the fluid entry module is returned to the first position. The action of the wiping seal causes the residue of the introduced fluid to accumulate on the exterior surface of the aspiration tube adjacent the fluid entry port as the fluid entry module is returned to the first position, so that the operation of the pump then draws the accumulated residue of the introduced fluid through the aspiration tube for disposal.
Still further according to the present invention the fluid entry module may be moved to a third position, so that the aspiration tube is rotated into a third position for the introduction of a fluid from a capillary tube or similar container, while the wiping seal remains in the first position adjacent the fluid entry port as the aspiration tube is rotated into the third position. According to the present invention, the interior of the wiping seal adjacent the fluid entry port is shaped to receive and form a fluid and gas tight seal with the capillary tube or similar container. In addition, the upper interior portion of the wiping seal is shaped at the juncture between the interior circumference of the wiping seal and the exterior surface of the aspiration tube such that a bead of a last aspirated fluid forms at the junction to function as a lubricant for motion of the wiping seal along the aspiration tube.
In an embodiment of the present invention, the aspiration tube is comprised of a first section located within the analysis mechanism chassis for conducting fluids to the sensor chamber and a second section enclosed within the fluid entry module and rotatably connected to the first section by a fluid and gas tight seal.
And still further, the fluid entry mechanism includes a valve having a nipple located adjacent the fluid entry port and engaging with the wiping seal in a fluid and gas tight joint when the fluid entry module is in the first position for selectively connecting selected ones of a plurality of calibration/cleaning sources to the nipple for the introduction of calibration/cleaning fluids to the aspiration tube and sensor chamber.
The calibration and cleaning fluids may also include gases, such as air.
In a presently preferred embodiment, the valve cylinder and cylindrical extensions are a highly polished ceramic material and the valve body is likewise made of a highly polished ceramic material fitting with the valve cylinder to form a sliding liquid and gas tight seal, or of a resilient plastic material having an interference fit with the valve cylinder to form a sliding liquid and gas tight seal with the valve cylinder. In other embodiments, using either ceramic or plastic materials for the valve body, the seal between the valve body and the valve cylinder may be provided by a separate, resilient sealing cement, such as an O-ring.
In the presently preferred embodiment, the analyzer apparatus is configured with the valve being fluidically before the entry port mechanism. This positioning allows only reagents to flow through the valve, and the biological samples to be analyzed are introduced at the entry port following the valve, so that no biological fluids pass through the valve. This apparatus configuration provides a minimal number of dead volumes where biological samples can become contaminates for future reagents and samples, especially eliminating the contamination issues associated with biological samples flowing through valves where dead volumes typically exist.
Further according to the present invention, a sensor module may include an internal reservoir in association with the sensor element for storing fluids for use in operation of the sensor element and will generally include a body extension extending forward from the sensor module to be grasped by a user for insertion or removal of the sensor module from the sensor chamber.
According to the present invention, the sensor chamber includes an engagement element for selectively exerting pressure along a stack of one or more modular sensor modules in the sensor chamber to force the modular sensor modules into contact so that the fluid seals between the fluid passages of the modular sensor modules form a single gas and liquid tight passage through the sensor chamber.
Also, at least certain of the sensor modules are constructed to a standard width and a standard height while others of the sensor modules have widths or heights that are multiples of the standard width and height and at least certain of the modular sensors modules are dummy modules not having a sensor element but providing a gas and liquid tight fluid passage along the sensor chamber.
Other features, objects and advantages of the present invention will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art after reading the following descriptions of a present implementation of the present invention, and after examining the drawings, wherein:
As illustrated in
It will be noted that, shown in
In a present embodiment of Analysis Apparatus 10, Aspiration Tube 16 a is constructed, for example, of stainless steel, polyethylene or polycarbonate and has an interior diameter of 0.032 inches and an exterior diameter of 0.042 inches to 0.063 inches. Passage Pivot 20, for example, is constructed of Delrin and has a “D” shaped cross-section with an outside radius of 0.125 inches and an overall length of 1.55 inches with Passage Pivot 20 being designed to accept and hold Aspiration Tube 16 a.
As shown in
As illustrated in
As illustrated in
As indicated in
It will be apparent from the above that the design of the aspiration tube passages and sensor chamber of the present invention is such that the samples, the calibration fluids and the cleaning fluids all flow through the same interior passages and that these interior passages contain no dead areas or volumes to trap the fluids flowing through the passages. In particular, it will be noted that while the passages do contain certain joints or junctures, all of the joints or junctures are of a rotating nature rather than joints or junctures allowing axial motion, thereby minimizing or eliminating the dead zones of voids arising from sharp bends in the passages or sudden changes in the diameters of the passages. The interior passages of the analysis apparatus of the present invention are thereby designed to prevent or significantly reduce the risk of contamination or carryover of one fluid by another.
Referring again to Fluid Entry Mechanism 12, as described above, Passage Pivot 20 and thus Aspiration Tube 16 a are rotatable around the longitudinal axis of Passage Pivot 20 and Connecting End 24 b. As indicated in
As shown in greater detail in
In this regard, it should be noted that Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 will preferably include one more Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 than the number of calibration fluids and cleaning solutions to be used and that this addition Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 will be open to the ambient atmosphere so that air can be aspirated through the fluid path in the apparatus. For example, if the sensors residing in Sensor Chamber 28 are of the types having Nernstian or logarithmic characteristics with a non-zero offset, then two calibration solutions will be required, and probably one cleaning solution, so that the total number of Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 will be 4, the fourth Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 being the connection to the atmosphere.
The provision of air as a Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 serves a number of purposes in Analysis Apparatus 10. First, a “slug” of air may be aspirated through the system between each fluid that is drawn through the apparatus, that is, between the calibration fluids, the cleaning solutions and the samples, in whatever sequence the fluids are passed through the apparatus, and the surface tension at the various fluid-air interfaces will assist in removing the fluid remnants from the internal surfaces of the apparatus. Further in this regard, the movement of air-fluid interfaces through an analysis apparatus have been proven to be effectively for general cleaning of the apparatus. Still further, separating the different fluids by air slugs prevents mixing between the fluids and thereby preserves the identities and purity of the different fluids. Finally, the use of air as a “filler” between the fluids to assist in moving the fluids through the apparatus may reduce the amounts of the fluids required, thereby conserving the fluids, allowing analysis of smaller samples, and reducing the costs of using the apparatus.
Finally, and as represented in
Now considering further aspects of the physical construction of Analysis Apparatus 10, it is indicated in
In a present embodiment, for example, and as generally indicated in
Further in this regard, it will be noted that both Pump 30 and the valve assembly comprising Valve Cylinder 44 and its associated structures are illustrated in
Further in this regard, in a presently preferred embodiment of Analysis Apparatus 10 the Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 selection Valve 47 is shown in
As illustrated in
In the presently preferred embodiment, Valve Cylinder 44 and Shaft 36 are made of a highly polished ceramic material, such as alumina, and Nipple 38 is made of a resilient plastic, for example, DELRIN (Acetal). The upper end of Nipple 38, that is, the end of Nipple 38 that is adjacent to Fluid Entry Port 18, is shaped to mate with Fluid Entry Port 18 and a sealing member around Fluid Entry Port 18, as will be described further below. In the present embodiment, Nipple 38 has, for example, a length of approximately 0.125 inch and a diameter of approximately 0.073 inch where it mates with Fluid Entry Port 18 and has the general shape of a truncated cone with Calibration/Cleaning Passage 34 continuing through Nipple 38 and forming an opening in the top center of the truncated cone.
Calibration/Cleaning Passage 34 is molded or cast or drilled into Valve Cylinder 44 and Shaft 36 and has an internal diameter of approximately 0.040 inches. In the present embodiment, Valve Cylinder 44 has an outside diameter of approximately 0.500 inch and a height, or thickness, of approximately 0.200 inch and there is an extension below Valve Cylinder 44 to mate with a drive shaft driven directly or indirectly by Valve Motor 48, the drive shaft engaging extension being a disk having a diameter of approximately 0.560 inch and a height, or thickness, of approximately 0.1875 inch. In the present embodiment, the cylindrical extension comprising Shaft 36 has, for example, a length of approximately 0.5626 inch and a diameter of approximately 0.1875 inch. A section of the upper end of the cylindrical extension forming Shaft 36 has a width of approximately 0.12875 inch for a short distance just below the mating end to Nipple 38 to provide a bearing surface for the rotation of the valve assembly.
As illustrated in
It will be recognized that there are a number of ways to implement the mechanical connection between Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 and Rim Port 40 of Calibration/Cleaning Passage 34. One implementation, shown in
In yet another implementation of this embodiment, the Valve Body 49 may be made, for example of Teflon, and the sliding seal may be formed by making the diameter of Valve Cylinder 44 slightly larger than the interior diameter of the opening in Valve Body 49 into which Valve Cylinder 44 fits, whereupon the Teflon comprising Valve Cylinder 44 will cold flow to form a gas and fluid tight sliding fit into Valve Well 56, as is well known in the art. In other possible implementations, the sliding joint between Rim Port 40 and the valve body and the passages leading through the valve body to Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 can be sealed by providing an O-ring or thimble gasket for a seal between Rim Port 40 and the body of the valve.
It will be apparent from the above that the design of the valve and associated passages of the present invention is such as to contain no dead areas or volumes to trap the fluids flowing through the passages. In particular, it will be noted that while the passages do contain certain joints or junctures, all of the joints or junctures are of a rotating nature rather than joints or junctures allowing axial motion, thereby minimizing or eliminating the dead zones of voids arising from sharp bends in the passages or sudden changes in the diameters of the passages. The valve and associated passages of the analysis apparatus of the present invention are thereby designed to prevent or significantly reduce the risk of contamination of one fluid by another. It will also be noted that in the presently preferred embodiment of the valve of the present invention, the components of the valve that are subject to wear are made of ceramic material, thereby reducing the wear rate of these components and significantly increasing the use life of the valve.
Finally, it will be noted that in yet other embodiments, the valve may be rotated manually rather than by Valve Motor 48.
In summary to this point, Analysis Apparatus 10 thereby provides two paths for conducting samples and and calibration fluids and cleaning solutions through the apparatus. The first begins at Entry Port 18 whereby samples are introduced from various types of sample containers and the second is from Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 and through the valve assembly into Entry Port 18 whereby calibrantes and cleaning solutions are introduced. These paths are thereby identical from Entry Port 18 onwards and are thus identical for all purposes regarding the passage of samples, calibrantes and cleaning solutions through the analyzer. That is, the samples to be analyzed, the calibration fluids and the cleaning solutions all come in contact with the same internal parts and passages of the apparatus, that is, the internal sections of the apparatus from Entry Port 18 and onwards through Sensor Chamber 28.
To illustrate in further detail, the calibration fluids and cleaning solutions are conveyed through the apparatus by aligning Entry Port 18 with Nipple 38 and by controlling Valve Motor 48 to rotate Valve Cylinder 44 to align Port 40 with selected Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 in any desired sequence. When each Calibration/Cleaning Source 46 has been selected, Pump 30 will draw the selected calibration fluid or cleaning compound from the selected Calibration/Cleaning Source 46, and through the path comprised of Calibration/Cleaning Passage 34, Aspiration Tubes 16 a and 16 b and through Sensor Chamber 28 and Pump 30 and out Exit Port 32.
When samples to be analyzed are to be introduced into the apparatus, Entry Port 18 is rotated away from Nipple 38 by rotating Passage Pivot 20 to make Entry Port 18 accessible to the sample. Pump 30 will then draw the sample through the path comprised of Aspiration Tubes 16 a and 16 b, Sensor Chamber 28, and Pump 30 and out Exit Port 32.
It will be noted with respect to these operations that, as indicated in
As has been described, air may be introduced into the sequence of fluids flowing through Analysis Apparatus 10, that is, between each calibration fluid, cleaning compound or sample or even at several places within sequential aliquots of the same fluid. Sample Detector 60 detects the air-fluid interfaces at the beginning and end of each sample, calibration fluid or cleaning solution and indicates these interfaces to Microprocessor Control Unit 50, which uses this information to control the flow of fluids through Sensor Chamber 28 and the sensing and measurement of the fluids thus presented to Analysis Sensors 58. Sample Detector 60, in combination with the provision of air as one of the Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46, thereby insures appropriate positioning of the various fluids with respect to Analysis Sensors 58. It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the arts that various designs are available to implement Sample Detector 60, which exploits the differences in physical properties between liquids and gases. Among these are those utilizing the optical transmission and reflection properties of fluids and gases, electrical conductivity methods, and ultrasonic methods.
Having described the general and detailed design, structure and operation of Analysis Apparatus 10, the following will now describe further aspects of the structure and operation of Analysis Apparatus 10 with regard the mechanisms by which samples are introduced into Analysis Apparatus 10 from a variety of containers and by which cross contamination between samples and between samples and calibration fluids is prevented.
As has been described above, samples and calibration and cleaning solutions are introduced into Analysis Mechanism 14 by means of Aspiration Tube 16 a and Passage Pivot 20, which rotate about the longitudinal axis of Passage Pivot 20 so that Entry Port 18 of Aspiration Tube 16 a is presented either to Nipple 38, and thus to Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46, or to the sample containers. The only exterior section of Analysis Apparatus 10 that is thus subject to residual films and deposits is Aspiration Tube 16 a around and above Entry Port 18.
As indicated generally in
As illustrated in
A cylindrical Aspiration Tube Opening 78 extends through Bottom Wall 70 along the longitudinal axis of Fluid Entry Module 62 and has a First Part 80 that is slightly larger than the diameter of Aspiration Tube 16 a and a Second Part 82 that is sufficient diameter to accept Wiping Seal 84, which will be described in further detail below, in a press fit.
Fluid Entry Module 62 is further provided with a Lower Guide 86 protruding from the lower end of Side Wall 76 and an Upper Guide 88 protruding from the upper end of Side Wall 76, both generally located along the longitudinal axis of Fluid Entry Module 62.
As shown in
It has been described above, and will be further described below, that Fluid Entry Module 62 and Passage Pivot 20 with Aspiration Tube 16 a are to rotate as a unit about the longitudinal axis of Passage Pivot 20. For this reason, Passage Pivot 20, as described previously, has a D shaped cross section with the flat section of the D shape engaging with the sides of Longitudinal Opening 72 provided by the walls of Side 74 and Side 76 so that Fluid Entry Module 62 rotates together with Passage Pivot 20 while being free to slide along Passage Pivot 20 in the direction of and to the extent defined by Longitudinal Opening 72.
Referring now to
As shown in
Body Face 90 of Analysis Mechanism Chassis 54 has a Second Guide Channel 98 of sufficient depth and width to accept Upper Guide 88 and located to accept Upper Guide 88 when Fluid Entry Module 62 rotates about Passage Pivot 20 when Passage Pivot 20 is located at the upper end of Longitudinal Open 72, directly abutting Upper Wall 68. Second Guide Channel 98 extends in an approximately quarter circle path around the central axis of Passage Pivot 20 and from a point above the central axis of Passage Pivot 20 to a point that is approximately horizontally to the rear of Passage Pivot 20, relative to Front Face 94. As shown, Second Guide Channel 98 has a Second Opening 100 which extends from Second Guide Channel 98 and directly upwards from the point over Passage Pivot 20 to and through Upper Face 102 of Analysis Mechanism Chassis 54. Second Opening 100 is of sufficient width and depth to allow the passage of Upper Guide 88.
Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a with Entry Port 18 may therefore be located in any of three positions, which may be referred to as the “closed”, “capillary” and “test tube” positions, and will follow one path in moving between the “closed” position to the “capillary” position and a second path in moving between the “closed” position and the “test tube” position.
The “closed” position and the movements of Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a with Wiping Seal 84 to the “capillary” and “test tube” positions are illustrated, respectively, in
Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a with Entry Port 18 are moved to the “capillary” position, as illustrated in
Fluid Entry Module 62 then continues to be rotated about Passage Pivot 20 until Entry Port 18 at the end of Aspiration Tube 16 has reached a point, illustrated in
The end of the sample container, that is, the open end of the capillary tube, hypodermic syringe or similar container from which the sample is to be drawn, is then inserted into the opening in Wiping Seal 84 and into contact or close proximity with Entry Port 18 so that the sample can be drawn into the apparatus. It should be noted, in this respect, that the enclosure of both the open end of the sample container and Entry Port 18 within Wiping Seal 84 provides a gas and liquid sealed junction between the sample container and Entry Port 18, insuring that the sample is drawn into the apparatus and preventing the entry of air or contaminates.
Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a with Entry Port 18 are moved to the “test tube” position, as illustrated in
As Fluid Entry Module 62 continues to slide upwards along Aspiration Tube 16 a, Lower Guide 86 will, as illustrated in
Finally, the above described motions of the component parts of and associated with Fluid Entry Module 62 will be reversed when Aspiration Tube 16 a and Entry Port 18 are returned from the “capillary” or “test tube” positions to the “closed” position.
It is therefore apparent that the mechanism provided by Fluid Entry Module 62, Aspiration Tube 16 a, Passage Pivot 20 and their related channels and guides provides an analysis apparatus that is capable of conveniently accepting samples from a wide variety of sample containers by providing an entry port mechanism with multiple positions, each position being adapted for a different class or type of sample container.
As will be described just below, this same mechanism also provides a mechanism for automatically, safely and conveniently removing the residual films and deposits from samples.
In particular, it has been described above that Wiping Seal 84 is enclosed in Aspiration Tube Opening 78, which extends through Bottom Wall 70 and that Aspiration Tube 16 a extends through Wiping Seal 84 with Wiping Seal 84 sliding along Aspiration Tube 16 a from and to the closed position as Entry Port 18 is moved from and to the closed position. As illustrated in
The interior of Wiping Seal 84 is similarly generally cylindrical, having a narrower cylindrical upper section for receiving Aspiration Tube 16 a and a wider cylindrical lower section for mating with Nipple 38 and, for example, capillary tubes or syringes. As also shown in
In a presently preferred embodiment, Wiping Seal 84 is preferable cast or molded from a relatively soft elastomeric material, such as silicon, Viton or butyl rubber, and the inner diameter of Sealing Ridges 104 is preferably approximately 10% to 20% smaller than the exterior diameter of Aspiration Tube 16 a. As such, Sealing Ridges 104 are therefore elastically expanded by Aspiration Tube 16 a and thereby provide one or more corresponding seals around Aspiration Tube 16 a while allowing Wiping Seal 84 to slide along Aspiration Tube 16 a. It should be noted, however, that Sealing Ridges 104 are not necessary for proper operation of the apparatus and may be eliminated in alternate embodiments.
Wiping Seal 84 thereby operates when Entry Port 18 is in the closed position to retain calibration and cleaning solutions within the interior fluid passageways of Analysis Apparatus 10, particularly as the calibration and cleaning solutions are present in the fluid passageways only when the calibration or cleaning solutions are aspirated through the apparatus, as discussed above. Residual films and deposits from the calibration and cleaning solutions are thereby deposited only on the interior surfaces of the apparatus, and are removed by the cleaning process. Further in this regard, it is apparent that residual films and deposits can be deposited on both the interior and exterior surfaces of the apparatus only while Entry Port 18, that is, Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a, are in the “capillary” or “test tube” positions. It is also apparent that residual films or deposits from the samples will be deposited on the exterior surfaces of the apparatus near the tip of Aspiration Tube 16, that is, on Aspiration Tube 16 a at Entry Port 18 and on the exterior surface of Aspiration Tube 16 a between Entry Port 18 and the bottom of Wiping Seal 84.
It has also been described that as Entry Port 18, and thus Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a, are moved from the “closed” position to the “capillary” or “test tube” positions, Wiping Seal 84 slides longitudinally along Aspiration Tube 16 a to expose a section of Aspiration Tube 16 a at and above Entry Port 18.
When a sample has been introduced into the apparatus, Entry Port 18, with Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a, are returned to the closed position for the subsequent introduction of cleaning solutions and/or calibration fluids before the next sample is introduced. As has been described above, the motion of Fluid Entry Module 62 and Aspiration Tube 16 a when returning to the “closed” position are the reverse of their motions when moving to the “capillary” or “test tube” positions, so that Aspiration Tube 16 slides through Wiping Seal 84 to bring Wiping Seal 84 back to at or near the end of Aspiration Tube 16 a, that is, at or near Entry Port 18. Viewed from the other perspective, Wiping Seal 84 effectively slides down Aspiration Tube 16 a from the “capillary” or “test tube” position to the “closed” position and moves into close proximity with the end of Aspiration Tube 16 a while doing so.
During this motion of returning to the “closed” position from the “capillary” or “test tube” positions, therefore, Wiping Seal 84 “wipes” the exterior surface of Aspiration Tube 16 a, cleaning it of any residual film or deposit from the sample, with the residual film or deposit forming as a drop or bead at or very near the end of Aspiration Tube 16 a, that is, at or very near Entry Port 18.
As indicated in
At this point, Position Sensor 108 provides a signal to Microprocessor Control Unit 50, which activates Pump 30 to draw the drop or bead of sample residue or deposit into the fluid passages of Analysis Apparatus 10, whereupon it is disposed of.
The analysis apparatus of the present invention thereby provides an automatic system for cleaning residual sample, calibration and cleaning films and deposits from both the interior and exterior surfaces of the apparatus, thereby preventing cross contamination between samples, calibration fluids and cleaning solutions. In addition, the cleaning mechanisms of the present invention operate automatically, in particular to clean the exterior surfaces of the apparatus each time the entry port is returned to the normal, closed position, and without requiring additional work on the part of the user. Still further, the cleaning mechanism of the present invention does not require that the user manually clean the apparatus, thereby avoiding risk of injury to the user and damage or contamination to the apparatus, and does not require the additional disposal of cleaning waste and materials.
Lastly, it is shown in
Referring next to Analysis Sensors 58 and Sample Detectors 60, it has been described above that Sensor Chamber 28 preferably includes at least one Analysis Sensor 58 and at least one Sample Detector 60 and that in a presently preferred embodiment of the present apparatus Sensor Chamber 28 contains two Sample Detectors 60, one upstream and one downstream of one or more Analysis Sensors 58.
It has also been described that the Analysis Apparatus 10 of the present invention is of modular design and construction to facilitate cleaning and maintenance of the apparatus and the customization or adaptation of the apparatus to specific needs. As represented in
As shown in
In the present embodiment, Sensor Chamber 28 includes a sensor module Engagement Element 118 b, such as a cam or spring element that exerts a force along a stack of Sensor/Detector Modules 118 so that the Fluid Passage Seal 124 at the upper end of the Fluid Passage 120 of each a Sensor Module Body 118 a is forced into pressure contact with the lower surface of the Sensor Module Body 118 a immediately above, or with the upper surface of Sensor Chamber 28. Fluid Passage Seals 124 thereby seal the junctions between the Fluid Passages 120 at the junctions between Sensor/Detector Modules 118 and between the topmost Sensor/Detector Module 118 and the end of Aspiration Tube 16 b. Finally, it will be noted that the upper end of the passage from Sensor Chamber 28 to Pump 30, the input of which is located in the lower face or wall of Sensor Chamber 28, similarly has a Fluid Passage Seal 124 to seal the junction between the Fluid Passage 120 at the bottom of the lowest Sensor/Detector Module 118 and the passage to Pump 30. It may therefore be seen that the Fluid Passages 120 form a continuous gas and liquid tight passage from Aspiration Tube 16 b to the output to Pump 30.
As also indicated in
Finally, it will be noted that each Sensor/Detector Module 118 is provided with a Protrusion 134 on the front face of the Sensor/Detector Module 118 to provide a user hand grip by which a user of the apparatus may insert and remove Sensor/Detector Modules 118 into and from Sensor Chamber 28. It will be apparent that the insertion of a Sensor/Detector Module 118 into Sensor Chamber 28 or the removal of a Sensor/Detector Module from Sensor Chamber 28 will correspondingly make or break contact between the Sensor Element 122 electronics and leads and the apparatus electronics and microprocessor. It will also be apparent that the insertion or removal of a Sensor/Detector Module 118 may complete or disrupt the chain of Fluid Passages 120 between Aspiration Tube 16 b and the outlet to Pump 30, and that it is necessary for each Sensor/Detector Module 118 location in Sensor/Chamber 28 to contain a Sensor/Detector Module 118, or an equivalent module providing a sealed Fluid Passage 122 in the corresponding location in order to complete the chain of Fluid Passages 122 between the end of Aspiration Tube 16 b and Pump 30.
Lastly in this regard, it will be noted that, as illustrated in
It will also be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts that “blank” or “dummy” Sensor/Detector Modules 118 having only a Fluid Passage 122 therethrough with the appropriate seals may be provided and used to fill Sensor/Detector Module 118 spaces not occupied by functioning Sensor/Detector Modules 118, thereby serving to lock the functional Sensor/Detector Modules 118 into Sensor Chamber 28 and to provide a complete, sealed Fluid Passage 122 between the end of Aspiration Tube 16 b and the passage to Pump 30. Lastly, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts that the frontal faces of Protrusions 134 may serve to mount or display text or pictorial labels and representations indicating, for example, the type of Sensor/Detector Module 118 that is installed.
It will be further appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts that one or more of Sensor/Detector Modules 118 may typically be “reference” modules. An example of such a “reference” module is illustrated in
Next considering alternate implementations and embodiments of Sensor Chamber 28, Sensor/Detector Modules 118 and Analysis Sensors 58, new forms of Analysis Sensors 58 based on thick and thin film technologies, sometimes referred to as planar biosensors or planar sensors, have been developed in recent years. Such thick and thin film planar sensors offer lower costs, new types of analysis, smaller dimensions and more flexible physical configurations than do previous sensors. Thick and thin film planar sensors have been developed for, for example, measurement of blood gases, blood electrolytes, glucose and lactate, and for close-to-patient whole blood diagnostics requiring only small sample sizes and are thereby advantageous in a modular Analysis Apparatus 10 of the present invention.
The general structure of an exemplary Thick Film Planar Sensor (Thick Film Sensor) 172 such as may be employed in Sensor/Detector Modules 118 are illustrated in
It has been described above that Sensor/Detector Modules 118 containing Analysis Sensors 58 are each contained in a Sensor Module Body 118A designed to mechanically stack and interlock vertically in Sensor Chamber 28 to form a single assembly filling Sensor Chamber 28. It will be recognized and understood that Sensor/Detector Modules 118 containing Thick Film Sensors 172 may likewise be contained in Sensor Module Bodies 118A, with the Chamber 178 and the Input and Output Passages 180I and 180O forming a Fluid Passage 120 in the same manner as in the instance of conventional Analysis Sensors 58. As in the instance of conventional Analysis Sensors 58, the Fluid Passage 120 formed by the Chamber 178 and Input and Output Passages 180I and 180O of a Thick Film Sensor 172 will pass vertically completely through the Sensor Module Body 118A from the top side to the bottom side of the Sensor Module Body 118A and will be provided with at least one Fluid Passage Seal 124 at least one end of Fluid Passage 120.
It will also be recognized, however, that the construction of Thick Film Sensors 172 typically will require different form factors than those of Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing conventional Analysis Sensors 58. For example, Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing Thick Film Sensors 172 may typically be “taller” in the vertical axis and “narrower” in the horizontal dimension than Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing conventional Analysis Sensors 58, and will accordingly assemble into Sensor Chamber 28 in different configurations than those of Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing conventional Analysis Sensors 58. It will also be recognized that Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing Thick Film Sensors 172 and Sensor Module Bodies 118A containing conventional Analysis Sensors 58 may be mixed in a Sensor Chamber 28 with appropriate selection of the dimensions of the two types of Sensor Module Bodies 118A.
Exemplary arrangements of Sensor Module Bodies 118A are illustrated in
In this regard, it will be recognized from
Lastly in this regard, it will be understood that Sensor Chamber 28 will typically again include a sensor module Engagement Element 118 b, such as a cam or spring element that exerts a force along a stack of Sensor/Detector Modules 118 so that the Fluid Passage Seal 124 at the upper end of the Fluid Passage 120 of each a Sensor Module Body 118A is forced into pressure contact with the lower surface of the Sensor Module Body 118A immediately above, or with the upper surface of Sensor Chamber 28. As described, Fluid Passage Seals 124 thereby seal the junctions between the Fluid Passages 120 at the junctions between Sensor/Detector Modules 118 and between the topmost Sensor/Detector Module 118 and the end or ends of Aspiration Tube 16 b. As also described, the upper end of the passage from Sensor Chamber 28 to Pump 30 similarly has a Fluid Passage Seal 124 to seal the junction between the Fluid Passage 120 at the bottom of the one or more lowest Sensor/Detector Modules 118 and the passage to Pump 30.
A significant difference with Thick Film Sensors 172, however, is that many Thick Film Sensosr 172 have limited use lives, that is, are operative or provide reliable results for only a limited number of tests or for a limited period. For example, certain of the Sensor Elements 176 of some Thick Film Sensors 172 deteriorate or degrade over time. Because Thick Film Sensors 172 are essentially sealed units, the Sensor Elements 176 or other components of the Thick Film Sensosr 172 cannot be replenished, refilled, or refurbished, thereby limiting the use life of the Thick Film Sensosr 172. In this regard, it will be noted that as discussed herein above conventional Analysis Sensors 58 may include Sensor Reservoirs 126 containing, for example, reagents or other fluids used in the operation of the Sensor Element 122, so that certain elements, such as reagents, can be replenished, replaced or cleaned, thereby extending the user life of some conventional Analysis Sensors 58. At least some conventional Analysis Sensors 58, however, may also have limited use lives for similar reasons.
While Analysis Sensors 58 and Thick Film Sensors 172 may be rapidly and easily replaced, being modular in structure, it is at least inconvenient to have a Thick Film Sensor 172, for example, reach the end of its use life without warning during a sequence or series of analyses or at the beginning of a work shift or during a rush or very busy period, and may be very disruptive to workflow or to the validity of a sequence of analyses. It is also advantageous to know the remaining use lives of Analysis Sensors 58 and Thick Film Sensosr 172 currently in use for inventory maintenance and replacement ordering purposes.
For this reason, and as illustrated in
An example of a Record Memory 184 in a presently preferred embodiment of Analysis Apparatus 10 is illustrated in
Finally, it will be noted and understood that a Record Memory 184 may be employed in thin film sensor Sensor/Detector Modules 118, which are generally similar in construction and operation to Thick Film Sensors 172, as well as in the conventional Analysis Sensors 58, and in a similar manner and for similar purposes. It will also be understood that Thick Film Sensors 172, or the thin film sensor equivalents, may also include “references” or “reference” electrodes, for the same purposes as in conventional Sensor/Detector Modules 118, and that Record Memories 184 may likewise be employed in such “reference” thick film Sensors modules or the thin film equivalents. In addition, a thick film Module 118 or a thin film Module 118 may contain a one or more “reference” electrodes in addition to one or more Thick or Thin Film Sensors 172, or may contain only the Sensor Elements 176 comprising a “reference” electrode.
Lastly, it has been described that Calibration/Cleaning Sources 46 provide fluid passages leading to one or more corresponding reservoirs for storing calibration fluids and cleaning solutions and that the outlet of Pump 30 may similarly be led to a reservoir for holding the waste and residue from samples and cleaning and calibration fluids. As described, Analysis Apparatus 10 of the present invention is of modular design and construction to facilitate cleaning and maintenance of the apparatus and the customization or adaptation of the apparatus to specific needs and, for this reason, utilizes significantly improved reagent packs designed for use in this and similar types of apparatus, including the apparatus of the prior art.
Reagent Pouch 136 may be constructed, for example, by cutting the two sides of a Reagent Pouch 136 out of a sheet of multi-layer material, which is described below, and by heat welding the two sides together to form the Reagent Pouch 136 with weld seams along Bottom 142 and Sides 144 or by cutting the two sides from the sheet of multi-layer material as a single piece joined along or side or bottom, folding the double outline together along one side or the base, and welding the remaining seams. For example, the two sides may be cut from the sheet of material as a joined, base-to-base outline of the two sides and folded along the base-to-base line so that, when prepared for filling, Reagent Pouch 136 would have a fold seam along Bottom 142 and heat welded seams along Sides 144. Whichever method is chosen, Filling End 146 of Filler Neck 140 left open to allow the Reagent Pouch 136 to be filled with a selected reagent, cleaning agent or other fluid.
Also, and as indicated in
As illustrated in
Lastly in this regard, it is illustrated in
Referring now to the material comprising the walls of Reagent Pouch 136, it has been described previously that there are several major problems of the prior art regarding the use of Reagent Pouchs 136. For example, in the present embodiment the fluids contained in the Reagent Pouchs 136 may include tonometered fluids, such as calibrants, composed of an electrolyte solution of known concentrations of salts, and dissolved gases of carbon dioxide, oxygen and an inert gas of known concentrations. One problem is preventing the escape of gasses from a prepared calibration fluid or test reagent, or the entry of unwanted gases, particularly during storage or transportation. Another is to avoid contact between the prepared calibration fluid or test reagent and certain of the materials commonly used to construct reagent pouches, such as the aluminum foils often used to prevent the escape of gases from the enclosed liquids, as such contact frequently results in unwanted chemical reactions. Yet another problem is that it is often difficult to obtain the necessary seals between the aluminum or other metal foils and the layers of plastic materials commonly used to construct reagent pouchs, thus resulting in another source of gas leaks from and into the pouchs.
Accordingly, and according to the present invention as illustrated in
In a presently preferred embodiment of the Reagent Pouch 136 of the present invention and as illustrated in
Further, it has been described that a further problem with reagent pouches of the prior art has not only been the loss of dissolved gases from the fluids contained therein, but the formation of microbubbles of the gases within the pouches by escape of the gases from solution in the fluid therein, particularly when the reagent pouches are subjected to reduced external atmospheric pressures during shipment, such as on an airplane. As well known, this type of loss may occur despite the use of foil barrier layers to prevent the actual loss of gases from the pouches and, while the gasses are not lost from the packs, the concentration of gases within the liquid contained therein changes and the value of the liquid as a calibration standard is thereby destroyed.
Finally, it has also been described that it is necessary, or at least strongly preferable, that no gases be trapped in a Reagent Pouch 136 when it is filled with a liquid as such gases often cause unwanted changes in the composition of the gases in the liquid over time. According to the present invention, therefore, and as illustrated in
This concludes a description of presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, and, while the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to selected embodiments of the apparatus thereof, it will be also understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that various changes, variations and modifications in form, details and implementation may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Therefore, it is the object of the appended claims to cover all such variation and modifications of the invention as come within the true spirit and scope of the invention.
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|International Classification||G01N1/00, G01N35/10, G01N35/00|
|Cooperative Classification||G01N35/00712, G01N2035/00683, G01N35/1095, G01N35/1002|
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|Apr 30, 2010||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Apr 30, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8